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>> you are on an airplane in melbourne, fla., flying to change planes in atlanta. all of a sudden the pilot comes on and says can i have the chief flight attendant up front, please? set the scene for us. >> i had just sold my company and mail lot of money as a young man and was hustling to meeting. i was totally ill-prepared for what the next couple hours would hold for me. in my book i call it their reckoning. we all have reckoning. small, medium, large. this was very sobering because if all the things i had been programmed for like success, i was not prepared for a life altering, facing-death experience. it's really changed my life. >> when you are in that
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situation -- i have never been on an airplane as much as you -- are they giving you instructions? is there panic on everyone's face, including yours? >> the pilot did a remarkable job. it is nothing like what is on movies or television. basically, we ended up losing the landing gear and some of the flaps, according to what the pilot computer said. they have a list of things they do. for the passengers, they moved the passengers around. they take all the stuff out of the overhead compartments. the most sobering thing is that they tell you to brace yourself. they want you to put your head down. i do remember as we were going down, i was looking out the window. the woman was yelling at me to embrace. i was like, you are yelling at
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me? we had 35 minutes to prepare coming down. >> what was going on inside you >? >> panic. >> they are burning off fuel? >> yes, and some people are praying and others are crying. to be sincere, i did not want to die. i am a salesman and while i was praying, i was also negotiating. the conversation went something like this, are you kidding? >> talking to god? >> yes of course. i promise, if i live, i will do good. i believe more than i take. just give me the chance. -- i will leave more than i take. there was a great sense of
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relief. i made a deal. what does that mean now? i made a list of 101 things to do before i died. >> you call its eighth life list. >> --a life list. i was programs in business to make a plan and metrics, but i did not have one for my life. i encourage my family members, my son and daughter and business people. you have to write a life plan. how will you know if you are successful? living life without regret. i realized a couple of years into my journey that i was given permission for a second act. i was given permission to try to find happiness. i was not prepared. i did not know what were the tools available to make me
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happy. the front of my book deals with my own personal quest for happiness. then something important happened as my career developed, which was companies are a lot like people. they are born, they go through adolescence, they have their reckoning, they have to mature. so i started to apply the life and in my book to my business is. now that most of my businesses have been pretty successful i thought i would share those secrets with a big audience. >> it is an interesting premise. if your book is called "to the business of tabb ines." -- -- the business of happiness." you say that had been this drives success. >> that's right. i run around with interesting characters. a lot of really rich people are
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miserable because they do not have the tools. they thought that money was the outcome. or that success or adulation was the outcome. if you are open to being happy or you can find itself actualization as a company, then you open yourself up to really great success. >> you are 28 years old and on an airplane, facing this possible death, 20 minutes away from possibly dying. and you realize that to have all of this toys, because you were worth millions at that time. >> i was very poor growing up. my mother and father did not go to college. my father was a waiter. i sold the company and made $20 million after taxes. i declare victory. as the airplane was going down, none of the things i can lay it
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meant anything. >> let us take a break. the title of the book is "to the business of happiness." our guest is ted leonsis, businessman, filmmaker, family man, community leader. this book is something else. we will talk about it on the other side of this break. "this is america" -- brought to you by -- hyundai motor company - the national education association, the nation's largest advocate for children and public education the league of arab states, representing 350 million people in 22 member countries
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the rotondaro family trust the ctc foundation and the american life tv network >> you mentioned the early years, ted. what is the name of the park? >> sunset park. tell me about your mom. >> she was a secretary. my dad did not finish high school and was a greek immigrant. i did not know that i was poor until college at georgetown. people talk about their families and asked where did everyone summer? i did not summer.
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we went to massachusetts to take care of my grandmother every summer a few weeks. >> it was kind of a rough neighborhood or became one. >> it was a very rough neighborhood. there was a lot of drugs if in my community. at a young age i was in and a special class when i started school early because my mom and dad worked and i skipped eighth grade. i was running around with some older kids. it was a very small difference between kids who would make it and go to college and have career aspirations and those that hang out in the park and drank wine and did pot and have the drugs. i learned at a very young age if that the difference between making it and not making it israel is light. >> your -- between making it ant
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making it is small. >> -- >> my mother taught education was the most important thing she could give. she was concerned about the neighborhood and moved us one summer. i came home one day and if she said we are moving to massachusetts. we have to get out of this neighborhood. i did not really get it. i look back now and that was the penultimate decision. i could've been drawn down to being with the bad crowd. now i went and lived in the community where the kids were more goal-oriented. that helped my career development and academic development. >> you get into georgetown even though if one of your teachers at a high school said he is not college material. >> she was my college adviser. >> what a thing to say after you had been in a special school. i cannot add that up. >> my mom and dad originally
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believed that. that is another driver in business. i got a chip on my shoulder. i thought, i am going to show you. i am on the board at georgetown. they have just given me of the award this year, being there alumnus of the year. i graduated first in my class. my high school guidance counselor told me i was not college material. i ended up doing well in school. >> tell me about father? >> he was 75 years old, a mentor. >> you city was the most important person you ever met in your life. >> he was a wonderful man. he really thought that to do the right thing, he taught me how to critically think and today they call it being able to take a little of that application and
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another application and bring it together. he called that critical thinking and trying to have balance. my senior thesis was in -- retained my career because it introduced me to computers in 1976. >> let's slow down a little, because to give you also this credit of kind of working at a shoe store and a library and in the office as an intern. you are different from these people at georgetown, right? >> i took on a lot of loans to go to college. my parents did not have it. >> that was one of the things on your list, to pay back the loan. >> one of the first things on my list was to pay off my parents mortgage and my college loans. i worked at a shoe store. i showed my wife and kids that i
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sold shoes. i started my first business at georgetown, a snow cone vending business during the bicentennial. >> good for you. >> i had a lot of experiences in colleges that helped lay a platform for my belief system as an executive. >> the father suggested you read the old man in the sea and you got hooked into the business of looking at hemingway. i recall the story and that you read it and then some other stuff of hemingway and you thought maybe this was not written in 1950, maybe it's something you should look at. >> yes, critical thinking. i read old man in the sea, a wonderful pulitzer prize-winning book. it was a good day, the sun was hot. i started reading some of his other work. it was more like jack kerouac's work from the late '50s and early '60s. it struck me that maybe hemingway, who was a journalist,
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tried to adapt to a new style and was not as successful and then rolled out of the drawer something that he wrote earlier and freshened it up and became more relevant again. so father dirk thought it was an interesting theory and came up with the idea of we have a computer on campus and maybe the computer logistics' majors could help me to prove this. >> so you got an ibm 360. >> it was in the registrar's office. >> at what point did you realize that computers would change the world and that's you were fascinated by them? >> right then. when the computer said that
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baseball needs 17 metrics of words presentence, sentences per paragraph and the book was written in 1936, 1951. and you saw that mathematics did not lie. that there was no fuzzy stuff. it was something magical going on. i was one of the first liberal arts majors to see the power of computers. >> your thesis ties in history and linguistics and english. >> computers as well. >> it has it all there together. fattah and then -- i love this. you have to say that luck is there for you as well. one thesis is on hemingway and then you get into this other thing which has to do with jack kerouac and you are hanging around with -- >> allen ginsberg and another
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guy were best friends with jack kerouac. my uncle and cousins grew up with jack kerouac. jack kerouac passed away. allen ginsberg and veros were at georgetown at the theater giving a poetry reading. i said i am writing a thesis and not like to interview you. when i told them i was growing up in massachusetts and who my relatives were, they spent the entire next day with me. i had to go to class and they said they would come to class with me. i walked into my english class a little late with allen ginsberg and william burroughs. i received an a in the class. >> you took them to the radio station. >> they did "hummmm" for about 20 minutes. his mantra. >> did you consider yourself at
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georgetown going through a real good patch of you were working hard, but were you having fun? were you a happy person? >> i was very busy. i was getting good grades. i had lots of jobs and a lot of friends. >> you are gregarious. >> i am extroverted. i was very happy. the happier i was, the more successful i was becoming in all my endeavors. >> when you graduated at 21 years of age, and you are in the era of computer is just starting if it is interesting that you end up at your first job back to your start. lexa moved back in with my parents. went to a computer company that was growing like crazy back in the days. they invented word processing. something interesting happened to me because i had to go to the
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west coast computer fair. i met steve jobs in 1978. while i was at the west coast computer fair, i saw one of the first aptitude computers. it came on assembled. there was a motherboard and you had to buy a keyboard. the directions were given to you in and baggy. i felt i needed to stay on what was happening with computers. at a young age i fell in love with the power and promise of computers. then something else happened. i was at a grocery store. i saw a television guide magazine and it had the little started said the number one best-selling magazine in america, and i had never read the tv guide. i bought it and i remember on the front of the book for interviews with television stars and on the back was, here are
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the programs that play on which networks. i threw it away and later that night i went into my home office and always in front of the computer and i had two little software programs on the side. honestly, it was like i got hit by a bolt of lightning. i said, you know, i bet to this computer and a television are going to be the same thing one day. they both have screens and the tv guide's talks about programs. i have these two software programs. tv guide talk about networks like nbc and cbs. i just came from the west coast computer fair and they were talking about internet networks. this is all going to be the same one day. that was 1979 or 1980. now today when you look, 30 years later, i am carrying an iphone, but i watch my
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television on it. the convergence has really happened. i just saw that early on. that really was a path that cleared out for me and created my first entrepreneur experiences and myrick america online -- at america online. tv guide was the database. we listed all the software and hardware that worked on all the different computers. a very successful thing early on. we sold that for about $60 million. i earned $20 million after taxes. that is when i declared victory. that is exactly the issue. we see that happen to a lot of people. is that all there is? at the young age i started a company and sold it and made a lot of money then i had my
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reckoning. i think everyone has a reckoning. you might get laid off and -- >> your heads slammed against the wall. >> divorce, half marriages end in divorce. bankruptcy filings or whatever it is. and you have a crisis. when i got on that airplane and i thought i had it all and i learned humility quickly. i used that reckoning to generate the list and then i went on to all the secrets of happiness. >> when you end up at the america online and you have the presidency title and vice chairman title, it was the rise and fall and the rise and fall. >> i experienced it all at aol. >> you were one of the few people to protest the merger
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between aol and time warner. why was that a disaster? >> it was a disaster because one of the kee platforms for happiness is to find a higher calling in all of your pursuits. when aol was a young company, what we articulated as a higher calling was bringing the magic of the internet to level the playing field for everyone in education or to help people do things faster, better, more efficiently online and offline. aol did that. instant messaging did that. when we bought time warner -- let's not forget we acquired time warner and lost our way. tyra higher calliour higher cab,
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which means that after interest and taxes and depreciation. no one comes to work and no one buys your product, and no one wants to partner with you if that is what you are about, something they don't understand even. when the company was about articulating a double bottom line, that we want to do good and do well because we are doing good, we were outrageously successful. we built a company valued at $150 billion. when everything pivoted around $11 billion of ebitda, the company struggled mightily. >> if you take a new media company and partner it with an old media company, you are pushing the river right there, right? >> everybody was talking about
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the comingling of media. it was good business deal of history. it was on the cover of magazines. it sounded like a great idea. vision is one thing and execution is something else. what we have learned is that you have to be a destroyer of value in the internet space to build value. google certainly has tripled its way through the traditional media companies. amazon has tripled its way through the traditional distribution and bricks and mortar companies. time warner was a $30 billion company and we were a $20 million company. after we emerged from all the things we would do to innovate were putting at risk a big part of the franchise. if you can have real focus and tabb employees and that the customers and articulate as
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simple vision and simple message, those companies are the ones that win. -- and happy employees. >> you are the owner of the washington capitals. we are having a great season. that must bring you a lot of happiness. >> it does. it is our third year in a row that we have been very successful. >> we are going to talk in the second half-hour and focus entirely on the book, "to the business of happiness." i have written a book so i know little about the subject. i want you to take notes that this one has my highest recommendation. just so many good things. it takes it from a point of view of if you are happy, hang around with happy people, working at a happy co., the success will follow. are we going to win the stanley cup this year? >> we will one of these years.
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you don't want to jinx things, or make the hockey gods angry. our goal is not system and the cup but to bring our city closer together. -- arnot just to win the stanley cup. >> acting as an anger for the city, right? we will see you next time to talk about this book. thank you, ted. >> for online video of all "this is america" programs, visit our web site. this program is brought to you by -- hyundai motor company - the national education association, the nation's largest advocate for children and public education
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the league of arab states, representing 350 million people in 22 member countries the rotondaro family trust the ctc foundation and the american life tv network captioned by the national captioning institute --www.ncic
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trying to combat extremism within their community.

This Is America With Dennis Wholey
WETA September 12, 2010 10:00am-10:30am EDT

News/Business. (2010) Ted Leonis, owner of the NHL's Washington Capitals. (CC)

TOPIC FREQUENCY Jack Kerouac 5, Aol 4, Massachusetts 3, Allen Ginsberg 3, Hyundai 2, Ted 2, The Nation 2, The National Education Association 2, Ctc 2, Hemingway 2, Georgetown 2, Ibm 1, Board 1, Lexa 1, Offline 1, Tyra 1, Ncic 1, Warner 1, Cbs 1, America Online 1
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